Tony Avelar/Associated Press
Sometimes a running back platoon means a team lacks a solid option at the position. That would not appear to be the case for the Carolina Panthers.
Both Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey were a big part of the game plan for the Panthers in their 23-3 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday evening. Stewart rushed 18 times for 65 yards and added two catches for 17 more yards and a score, leaving him with a solid 14.2 fantasy points on the day in standard leagues.
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McCaffrey, meanwhile, rushed 13 times for 47 yards and caught five more passes for 38 yards (on seven targets). That was good for 8.5 fantasy points.
Both players present strong cases for fantasy owners. Stewart, if he can avoid the injury bug, is a solid runner who is likely to see more carries in general and touches by the goal line. McCaffrey, meanwhile, is the more versatile and explosive weapon who will stay on the field regularly because of the mismatches he creates.
The problem for fantasy owners, of course, is that Stewart and McCaffrey will siphon touches from one another.
McCaffrey has far more upside in fantasy circles and looks as though he’ll hold a bigger overall role in the team’s offense, however. On Sunday, he had more snaps (48) than Stewart (29) by a wide margin, per Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus.
But Stewart’s touchdown was the difference in their fantasy value on Sunday, and that could be a trend going forward. If he continues to be the short-yardage and goal-line back, his touchdown production could help make up for the value he loses given McCaffrey’s higher usage.
For the moment, however, both are best treated as flex options going forward. Given their different roles on offense, there is room for both to hold top-30 value at the running back position this season.